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Turkey - Day 11 - Pergamum and Asklepion, then headed home

Last full day before flying home to Atlanta

We arise to another gorgeous day on the Turkish coast, and can't believe how fortunate we have been with the weather. Aside from a few overcast days when we were in Istanbul, and rain the morning we flew out of there, it has been picture perfect postcard weather throughout our entire trip. I had heard fall is the perfect time to visit Turkey, but this has me sold.

The fishermen are still out hoping for a catch as we load up our bags into the van, saying good-bye to the Key Hotel and Izmir.



The ruins of the ancient metropolis of Pergamum, located on a hilltop towering above the modern town of Bergama, are about an hour and a half's drive north of Izmir.

That's Pergamum up on the hilltop
(Photo taken from Asklepion, later in the day):

In order to reduce traffic and congestion at the top of the hill, a cable car has been installed to take visitors to the Acropolis. It's a short 5 minute ride, but provide views of Bergama as well as the crumbled city walls that formerly surrounded Pergamum.


A few facts are in order to fill you in on Pergamum's history:

* Pergamum was originally settled by Aeolian Greeks in the 8th century BC.

* It was one of the ancient world's main centers of learning, and its library was second only to Alexandria's.

* Legend has it that Mark Antony gave Cleopatra all 200,000 scrolls in the Pergamum library as a wedding present, and they were added to Alexandria's library collection. No record of the contents of the collection has ever been unearthed.

* Pergamum is credited with being the home and namesake of parchment. Prior to the creation of parchment, manuscripts were transcribed on papyrus, which was produced only in Alexandria. Parchment reduced the Roman Empire’s dependency on Egyptian papyrus and allowed for the increased dissemination of knowledge throughout Europe and Asia.

* Pergamum's decline commenced in the first century when Ephesus became Asia's capital. Earthquakes severely damaged the city in the third century, it was sacked by invading armies, and its decline continued until it was virtually abandoned by the middle ages.

Much of the city remains in ruins and many of the "prize" archeological finds have been carried off to the Pergamum museum in Berlin (German archeologists have managed excavation of the site). But the signage is good, and Evran provides a good sense of what the city would have looked like in its heyday.

Ruins of the Library:

The Temple of Trajan:


Since heights don't bother us, we go down to the hillside 10,000 seat theatre to take in the view from there. Evren points out the ruins of an ancient coliseum in the far distance, just waiting for an archeological team to unearth it and reassemble it. That's the fascinating thing about this country: everywhere you look there are ancient ruins just waiting to be excavated. All it takes is time, money and people.


From Pergamum we drive a short distance to the medical center of the ancient world, Asklepion.


This ancient medical center, which is thought to date back to the 4th century BC, was founded by a local citizen who had been healed by treatments he received at a treatment center in ancient Greece. It really came into prominence during the 2nd century AD when the physician, Galen, set up shop here. Second only to Hippocrates, Galen is recognized as perhaps the greatest early physician and added greatly to knowledge and treatment methods used well into the 16th century.

The center takes its name from Aesculapius, the god of Health and Medicine, whose symbol is intertwined snakes, which remains the symbol of medicine today. Just as the snake sheds its skin and gains new life, healed patients were expected to shed their illnesses and gain new life. The symbol is carved on a column in Asklepion's center.

Treatments at the center included mud baths, ointments, herbal supplements, enemas and the like. Interestingly, dreams were also interpreted by the doctors as a method of treatment. I guess they had a jump on Freud in that respect.

A Roman bazaar occupied a road leading into the center. Here, family members would buy gifts for patients being treated at the center. Oft times, the gift would feature a drawing of the limb or body part that required healing.

Another view of Pergamum from Asklepion

Part of the complex:

An interesting circular treatment center:

A theatre where productions were mounted for the benefit of patients.
In the foreground is a healing fountain.

Feeling in need of the restorative powers of food ourselves, we head off for some lunch.

Lunch, rugs and headed home


After an enjoyable lunch we make one last shopping stop at a women's rug cooperative in Bergama. Nice people and nice rugs, and all for a good purpose. Plan to stop by Desen if you are in the neighborhood.


Headed Home

Sadly, we have reached the end of our travels in Turkey. Evren and Muzo drop us off at the airport in Izmir, and we fly back to Istanbul to catch our AirFrance flight back home. The trip has exceeded all of our expectations and only whetted our appetite for a return trip. Someday...

For further information about our trip, see the additional postings:
Turkey - Closing thoughts and miscellaneous
Turkey - Travel agent and guides
Turkey - Hotels

Thanks for reading!

Posted by BeachGlass 08:32 Archived in Turkey Tagged bergama pergamum asklepion desen Comments (0)

Turkey - Closing thoughts and miscellaneous

Closing thoughts:

We are now back home and it has been a joy to relive our trip by going through these pictures and this travelog. Turkey was every bit as fabulous as we expected it to be, and then some. Rarely during our travels have we encountered people as warm, friendly and helpful as those we encountered in Turkey. We feel like we have only begun to scratch the surface of all there is to discover there. We hope to return again, before too long.

There were a few random thoughts, observations, facts, and "what-not" that I made note of during our travels that didn't seem to fit well anyplace else, so I have gathered them below. Perhaps they will be of some interest to you....


* The Turkish people are extremely patriotic and proud of their flag and the founder of their modern republic. Practically every establishment that we walked into displayed the flag of Turkey and a picture of Ataturk. Wonderful!

* Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey was born and named "Mustafa." Surnames were not commonly used in Turkey before the last century and he adopted the surname Kemal later in his life. Ataturk means" Father of the Turks" and was a last name bestowed upon him in 1934 and is forbidden by the parliament to be used by anyone else.

* Auto fuel (petro) prices in Turkey are among the highest in the world. Oddly, motorcycles and scooters are not very popular there.

* Everyone has heard of Turkish coffee, but we observed that most Turks seem to enjoy drinking tea more. Merchants often have standing orders for mid-morning tea, which is delivered on trays by nearby cafes.

* Although the majority of the population is Muslim and Friday is Islam's holy day, Friday is still a working day. Saturday and Sunday are the weekend, just as they are in the West.

* Despite officially being a secular country, each citizen carries a national ID card that states their religion.

* Although Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, alcoholic beverages are widely available for purchase both in stores and in restaurants. They are heavily taxed however, and are therefore expensive.

* Most toilets in Turkey have a spout at the back of the bowl allowing the toilet to be operated either as a toilet or a pseudo-bidet. Squat (i.e. toilet-less) restrooms are not uncommon. And toilet paper, if available, is generally placed in waste baskets after use rather than being flushed.

None of this would have been a surprise to me if I had taken the time to carefully read all of the 5,000 pages on the incredible "Turkey Travel Planner" web site that Tom Brosnahan has put together. While I consulted this web site (among others) before our trip, I didn't read all of it. Anyway, it's the best overall web site that I found when researching our trip, and I highly recommend it to you.

Posted by BeachGlass 09:36 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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